The Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were court-martialled at Richmond Barrack between the 2nd and the 9th of May 1916. Thomas Kent was tried and executed in Cork. The court-martials were held in camera before a court that consisted of three army officers of the British administration in Ireland. Each trial lasted on average 15 minutes; the prisoners were denied legal representation; there was no jury; and the public or the press were not admitted to the court room. Fifteen of the leaders were executed. These executions took place in Kilmainham Gaol within a day or two of their court-martial.
Commandant Michael Mallin, Chief of Staff of the Irish Citizen Army was one of the executed. He was court-martialled on the 5th of May, found guilty of treason, and executed on May 8th of 1916. There was public disquiet at the secrecy surrounding these court-martials and the speed with which the executions were taking place. Public and legal representatives made every effort to stop the executions. They denounced the secrecy of the military courts and demanded sight of the court-martial records and of the evidence on which the sentences of executions were being carried out. The British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, gave a commitment in the House of Commons that he would release court-martial records. However after much debate and legal wrangling the British military intervened and blocked their release. Consequently, the records of these secret court-martials were kept sealed, indefinitely, in the British archives. At one point it was believed all of the records had been destroyed.
However some of the court-martial records survived and in 1999 it was decided to release them to the public; almost 83 years after these secret courts-martials at Richmond Barracks. Since their release in 1999 there has been much controversy surrounding the court-martial records. It is plain to see for instance that the court-martial record of Commandants Mallin was designed to discredit his patriotism and at the same time indict Countess Markievicz by providing evidence that would confirm her execution. Even before she was court-martialled the members of the court were well aware of their commanding officer’s intention to execute Markievicz. Maxwell made no secret of his intentions with regard to Markievicz. Consequently, the purposeful wording of Commandants Mallin’s court-martial record placed Markievicz in a commanding role and thereby strengthen Maxwell’s hand to execute her. It is worth noting that the senior military officer of the court, who wrote the court-martial record, is the only officer of the three three-officer court to sign the record, and that the accuracy of that record is contested by a senior British officer who gave evidence at Commandant Mallin’s court-martial. Yet, in spite of the existence of significant evidence to the contrary, that uncorroborated, unreliable account of Commandant Mallin’s court-martial has been repeated without challenge again and again since 1999; that is until recently.
In 2016 Fr. Joseph Mallin S.J, son of Michael Mallin, wrote a fact-based document in which he exposes the malign intent behind the self-serving account of his father’s court martial. His historical contribution entitled…To the Memory of My Father…is a forensic examination of the evidence that supports his thesis. He examines the motives behind what would seem to be deliberate omissions from his father’s court-martial record; the intent behind the statements ascribed to Commandant Mallin; and he reasons that there were old scores to settle going back to his father’s service in the British Army. He challenges historians and others for their failure to question the veracity of the uncorroborated account of the secret court-martial of his father, and the ulterior motives and intent that lay behind that uncorroborated account. He points historians to primary source material that they may have overlooked and he asks them, with courtesy, to give consideration to his work on this subject. His document was made public on June 15th 2017.
Fr. Mallin died in Hong Kong on April 1st 2018.